|I have this pin. I love it.|
It's no secret that I love a good challenge, especially when it pertains to the Craft or the practice of Magick. Many times when I know I have to write an entry for the Pagan Blog Project about something that begins with a specific letter, I will grab one of my occult encyclopedia's off the shelf and find an entry as a starting point for that post. This week it's the letter L, and what caught my eye was a two sentence paragraph about Lucky Bones.
I will be the first to admit that my knowledge about using bones in magick is limited to divination and necromancy. I only have an imprecise notion about using bones as talismans, and what I do know is specific to Native American fetish work. So writing this post is going to be a learning experience for both of us, and I'm excited about that. I will begin with this disclaimer: I do not advocate the harming or killing of any animal simply for the procurement of these items. I do realize that some spiritual traditions engage in animal sacrifice, and I respect this when it is done in a humane manner with the least amount of suffering to the creature. This is not a judgement about other religious traditions or their beliefs, and I do not mean to be disrespectful of those spiritual practices. My own personal policy is that I would only seek out these items from roadkill or animals taken for food. There are many forms of "Lucky Bones" used as charms; a few examples follow.
Most of us are familiar with the wishbone which has become a pop culture icon. It's represented in jewelry as pins, pendants, earrings, rings and charms, used in graphic art to illustrate advertising for things considered "lucky".
The humble wishbone is actually a fused clavicle in birds known as a furcula, ( literally, "little fork" in Latin). The folk lore surrounding the wishbone being used as a type of magical fetish can be traced to Medieval times, where the wishbone was more than likely that of a goose. Geese were commonly available before the introduction of turkeys to Europe, and were frequently eaten at holiday feasts [Edward A. Armstrong in "The Folklore of Birds" (Dover Publications, 1970)]. The wishbone was a much sought-after prize, and it's association with being lucky stems from a tradition with superstitious overtones, where the long ends of the bone were pulled in opposite directions until the "Y" broke just short of the joint. The individual who ended up with the largest piece would, in theory, be awarded a "lucky break", their wish would come true. On the other hand, the person with the smaller piece would have earned a "bad break", where chances of their wish coming true would be slim [http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2006/nov/19/davis-wishbone-myth-has-long-history/]. As time went by, the bones of other fowl would be used in this fun pastime which echoed tidings of good luck and wish fulfillment.
In the areas of the countryside where raccoons are known to be indigenous, there is a " lucky bone" tradition in folk medicine/magick that involves the penile bone of the creature. ( Most carnivores, with the exception of humans, have a retractable bone in their penis that help with extended periods of mating. Ever hear the phrase "having a boner"? Now you know where it originated!) These bones, as you can well imagine, go by many names in differing areas, not all of them repeatable in polite company. Especially in Appalachia, the baculum (Latin for " little rod") of a raccoon is regarded as a talisman. They are believed to be especially useful in favoring romantic relationships, where a young man wishing to be lucky in love, gave a raccoon dong to his lady to tie a string around and wear as a necklace. ( I admit that the bone from a raccoon's sex organs doesn't immediately spring to mind as a Valentine's Day gift to me. I'm just sayin'.) They are also precious to gamblers, to be used as a "lucky charm" while engaging in games if chance. They may be fashioned into jewelry, such as necklaces or pins (much like this golden beauty by Finch and Company in the UK:http://www.finch-and-co.co.uk/antiquities/d/gold-mounted-%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%98lucky-bone%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99-tiepin-or-brooch-/9309'.
In hoodoo and some forms of voodoo, a black cat bone is a used for luck. Most of the descriptions of this fetish don't specify an specific bone from a particular location in the animal's body; there are various methods of determination. Suggested methods of obtaining such an item is horribly cruel, in my opinion, because it always involves the suffering and death of the animal in an unaccaptably inhumane manner. "Black cat bones" are available commercially from several online occult suppliers, but many are a sham- they are usually chicken bones, or even chicken bones that have been painted black.
Another form of "lucky bone" originates from the head of a sheep (or a pig in some areas). The description of a triangular or "T" shaped bone is vague at best. After hours of research (and even consulting with my favorite go-to guy the notable hoodoo practitioner, root doctor and contributor to the Hoodoo Quarterly, Carolina Dean ) I was no closer to solving the mystery of what this "lucky bone" actually was. Frankly, we were both stymied and intrigued . The Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions (pg. 234) only describes it as " a T shaped bone from a sheep's head, used as a lucky charm and protective device against (malevolent) witchcraft", with the notation of Northamptonshire, 1851. Farther along in the entry it states that it is a "T shaped bone used as a talisman, the shape of (Tau) cross, used on Drudical monuments or worn around the neck, or in a shoe by children" (Denham, North England). The same source refers to it as a charm carried by fishermen on the Yorkshire coast ( to ward off storms and drowning at sea), reminiscent of the Hammer of Thor known as Mjölnir. The Prose Edda mentions that the Mjölnir, despite it's qualities as a fearsome weapon of power, was also a charm that could be " so small that it could be carried inside his (Thor's) tunic". ( The word used in the translation is feitico, meaning "sorcery" or "charm" in Portuguese.)
Finally, The Hand of Destiny, by C.J.S. Thompson (1932), also mentions the "lucky bone" as coming from a sheep or pig's head, with no other description. My personal hypothesis, after comparing the anatomy of both animals, is this bone could quite possibly be the Os nasale, a small, thin, flat, roughly triangular bone on the top of the nose. Because of the location, it would be easy to access and remove after the animal was butchered and during the preparation of the head for cooking. It seems to be the only bone common to both animals of that shape and small enough to carry in a pocket or worn as a pendant. I could be totally wrong, but I strongly suspect that I'm not.
copyright 2013, Amethjera
For a wealth of information on hoodoo and rootwork, please visit Carolina Dean's website at www.carolinaconjure.com, or his fan page on Facebook.